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Prairie plants have a much deeper root system than most crops and lawn grasses. The roots of prairie plants will often extend deeper into the soil than the stems that are above the ground. One acre of established prairie can produce 24,000 pounds of roots, and many prairie plants have roots that are 5-15 feet deep. The roots of prairie plants provide several ecosystem services. They decrease erosion, slow runoff, improve the soils ability to filtrate and hold water, store carbon, and improve soil health.

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Photo by Douglas Gayeton


Prairies provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species while helping to stabilize soil, purify water, and sequester carbon. Returning farmland to its original state as a native prairie requires management tools that include seeding, mowing, spot spraying for invasive plants, reseeding, supplemental plantings, and even prescribed fire. As restored prairies increase their forb diversity and density, grassland birds begin nesting in the grass and wildlife like snakes, gophers, and pollinators return. Because much of the plant and animal life in a restored prairie is below the ground, they are sometimes referred to as upside-down forests

“When we lost our prairies, we lost plant diversity; some wildlife that relied on the prairies moved on or went extinct. Those that remained are still endangered and threatened. If you come out to these prairies today, you'll hear the henslow's sparrow, and find nesting turtles and bumblebees.” - ANGELA, wildlife biologist

While crop and farm land can increase water run-off (which include agricultural pollution, prairie root systems hold soil in place, are drought resistant, and have deep root systems that act both as a giant sponge and a filter: they help water soak down into the soil and filter out excess nutrients and pollutants, thereby improving water quality.

LEADPLANT (Amorpha canescens)
A native, perennial semi-shrub in the pea family. Also known as downy indigo bush, prairie shoestring, or buffalo bellows. Leadplant roots can reach almost 20 length.

Each year volunteers help gather over 70 different native plant species to help restore prairies like this one.

THIS USED TO BE A CORNFIELD. WITH THE HELP OF PEOPLE LIKE ANGELA (AND FRIENDS), IT’S BEEN RETURNED TO A NATIVE PRAIRIE THAT CAN HELP IMPROVE MINNESOTA’S WATER QUALITY. Minnesota once had 18 million acres of prairie that stretched across the state. Minnesota’s pioneers transformed this fertile prairie soil to grow agriculture crops, carving up most of the state’s prairie into 40-acre farms that have grown and merged with each generation. Today only a little over 1 percent of native prairie remains in the state. This habitat fragmentation and loss has led to degradation of soil and water resources.

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